Tag Archives: Deborah Meaden

The Role of a Garage Broker

Several years ago, brothers Oly and Toby Richmond received funding from Deborah Meaden in the Dragons Den to run an online car servicing garage brokerage.

This business relationship then broke down for mutual reasons.

We’re told this was either because of Deborah’s lack of motor industry experience or because she read about too many complaints at that stage.

Here we look at the role of a garage broker and the quality issues this raises today.

What is a Garage Broker?

By an online garage brokerage I mean a branded website promoting garages that customers think are operated by that business; the motorist books and pays through the broker who then places the work with a local garage that has agreed to the broker’s rates and processes.

Servicing Stop’s website is a good example of one that is clear and simple. It tells us their garages are approved by them, that their mechanics are qualified (they don’t mention licensed which would prove they’re up to date?) and that they use OE parts so all repairs meet warranty standards. But they don’t tell motorists who their garages are. That won’t worry most motorists who’d welcome the convenience of this sort of service but perhaps it should raise some concerns?

At the time, the Dragons seemed to think that this was a unique concept (yet NSN and Prestige were well established brokers at that time) and Deborah Meaden offered them £100k.

All did not go according to plan afterwards…

Reasons Why Dragon Deborah and Servicing Stop split

Oly and Toby initially accepted Deborah Meaden’s offer of a £100,000 investment but decided to continue on their own when they later met Deborah and learned she had no experience of the motor trade. They subsequently found a more suitable investor – to the disappointment of Ms Meaden.

This is how they explained this.

“We secured a promise of investment by a Dragon but decided not to follow it up as it would have proved bad for both parties. Our message to potential entrepreneurs is that there are numerous ways of securing investment and backing so think twice before accepting the advice of a Dragon.”

And this is what Deborah Meaden placed on her website…

*Important announcement re Servicing Stop*
Following a number of complaints regarding the service provided by Servicing Stop, Deborah would like to make it clear that although she made an offer in the Den, the investment did not go through and Deborah is not in any way connected with Servicing Stop.


Since then Servicing Stop has gone from strength to strength and we hope they’ve ironed out quality issues and processes by now. I can understand why they’d prefer a business mentor who understood the motor industry. Although, perhaps being an industry outsider might have been a good thing for Servicing Stop?

Deborah could have added her weight to insist on better quality garages for Servicing Stop at an earlier stage.

We could certainly have done with her support to help raise standards in this industry sector!

FOXY Lady Drivers Club

NB: FOXY is not a garage broker. We run an award-winning and not for profit motoring club for women drivers, supported by garage subscribers that meet our FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly standards. They have all signed the FOXY Lady Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services we don’t need’ and are required to EITHER be part of a Chartered Trading Standards Institute Approved Code of Practice scheme (operated by The Motor Ombudsman, Trust My Garage or Bosch Car Service) OR be listed at the IMI Professional Register. Finally we require sufficient online female feedback to secure their network place – in exchange for this, their female customers get a gift membership of FOXY Lady Drivers Club from that subscriber.

Women can join the Club here.

Garages can apply to join our network here.

Foxy Deborah beats the men in the Dragons Den

I have just caught up with some TV programmes including a recent episode of Dragons’ Den with a new garage network called Servicing Stop run by two brothers who asked for £100k in exchange for 12.5% equity.

Peter Jones wanted in but just missed out by trying to close a deal too fast. One of the other male dragons offered the same terms (35% equity) but in the end they said yes to Deborah Meaden who came in at the end and offered the deal they wanted for 30% equity. Very foxy.

How interesting that the brothers would choose instantly (without having to speak to each other even…) on the basis of the cheapest money to service, rather than the one who might have the most relevant experience or opportunities to offer.

However I have a lot of time for Deborah and know she will bring commonsense marketing expertise to the garage debate. She has considerable business, tourism and leisure experience but has she been involved in the UK motor industry before? If not she might be surprised by what she finds; I certainly hope she finds it a more female friendly experience than a lot of women drivers do!

I was surprised that no Dragon asked about the garage competition or the target audience here as this is an extremely competitive sector. There are at least a couple of dead ringers here already and they are actively courting business women drivers, although more in a Fleet proposition where they drive BMWs and Mercedes not elderly Kia’s or Vauxhall’s.

It’ll be interesting to see how NSN and Prestige Car Servicing react – as well as Nationwide Autocentres when they spot the ubiquitous use of the nationwide keyword when offering the same services.

I also note that when asked how many garages they had on their books, one of the brothers said 600 but their website says 750+. Is that the power of the programme? In which case this and the customer exposure has probably paid for itself regardless of whether or not the deal goes ahead with Deborah.

I do have some reservations however in that whilst it’s a simple broker model, I worry about attempts to tighten the financial screw again and again and again in an industry without regulatory safeguards in terms of minimum safety standards. This industry has a well earned reputation for shoddy garage services and few garages are pro-actively female friendly with women drivers frequently singled out for patronising behaviour and higher bills

This broker model means that male and female motorists alike are being encouraged to choose independent garages over franchised dealerships (when some franchised dealers can compete with these prices by the way, depends on the make of car) and shop by price. The garage is  expected to prune their operating costs to get to the low fixed rates, pay an entry fee to the scheme I’m sure, provide a car collection service (this can be expensive to offer in terms of time and opportunity cost) and pay the garage broker a hefty commission for his marketing.

I hope the garages willing to do all this have been hand-picked through recommendation, are genuinely good enough to maintain safety standards and can make a profit from doing the job properly.

Undoubtedly the network that will do best is the one of the three that markets itself better than the others, hence the high cost of marketing mentioned (and where Deborah can help).

From the female motorist’s point of view (as often discussed here) the garage must deliver genuine value for money in that it must stick to the advertised price (no surprise extras on the bill), provide quality workmanship that is measurable (although many women wrongly assume this to be the case..), superior customer service and a reliable car collection/delivery service that doesn’t let them down.

I look forward to hearing all about this at the business networks I go to by dropping the words ‘car servicing’ and ‘garages’ into the conversation… I’ll also hear about this from FOXY’s female friendly garages, dealers and dealerships who will know more about this service than me I feel sure.


“Don’t be afraid to give up the good for the great”
Kenny Rogers